Thursday, August 28, 2014

Recycling Textile Waste for 175 Years!

E. Butterworth & Co., Inc. *
    *  Also known as EBCO and "The Absorbent Company" and e-rags 

Founded in 1839, E. Butterworth opened its U.S. office in 1860 to act as U.S. agents for cotton waste being brought into the country from its parent in England.  In 1867 it was purchased from the parent company and is now a privately-owned, independent firm.  The company continues to recycle textile waste into baled textile products and also provides a variety of new knit mill end wiping cloths.

E. Butterworth & Co. is one of the oldest companies in the world handling textile waste.  Though I have noticed that many 100-year-old companies have leading edge environmental policies, this company's business is recycling and has been for its entire history.  They are a proud member of SMART - an international association of secondary materials and recycled textiles.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Frankenmuth Brewery - One of Michigan's Oldest Businesses?



Frankenmuth Brewery should perhaps have been on my list of Michigan's oldest businesses.  I say "perhaps" because - though it was founded before 1870 - it had closed for short periods of time over the years: after a fire destroyed it in 1973 and after tornado ripped down its buildings in 1996.  But Frankenmuth Brewery is back in business, brewing and distributing craft beer as well as running a restaurant and banquet hall. Even with the down years, Frankenmuth Brewery has still been in business for well over 100 years.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Michigan's Oldest Companies

Following are the oldest businesses in Michigan based on my data base of 100-year-old companies. Michigan's oldest businesses all started prior to 1870 and have been in continuous operation since.  Three are located in Monroe and two in Frankenmuth. A few have changed their main line of business in order to survive and several are still in the same family - 5th, 6th and even 7th generation!

   Yaeger's Shoes

#1 (and 2): In an interesting tie for the oldest business, both Martin's Shoe House and Yaeger's Shoes are in Monroe and trace their roots back to 1846. Both are also generational family businesses - Martin's run by 5th and 6th generation and Yaeger's in the 5th generation. Both offer a full range of shoes in a retail store, with Martin's saying they "concentrate on corrective shoes for all ages" and they also have a shoe repair shop. Yaeger's says they specialize in custom shoe fitting and hard to find sizes.  Yaeger's has also expanded, opening a new store in Toledo, OH in 1995. Competition must be good for longevity!

#3. Next oldest is Star of the West Milling in Frankenmuth, which began in 1848 when two brothers built a dam and then erected a waterwheel powered flour mill. Over the years the mill has both changed ownership and expanded.  Today Star of the West operates five mills in four different states and is the 17th largest miller in the country.


#4. The fourth oldest Michigan business is one of three hardware stores on the list: Raymond Hardware has been doing business in Port Sanilac since 1850. Their description says "Whether you are a camper or boater, own a cottage, or live in the area year round, we have the products and advice to help you."  Open 7 days a week, with 6 delivery vehicles, they invite you to "stop in and ask for directions (they have free state and county maps) or get your fishing or hunting license."

#5. Another Frankenmuth business, Schaefer & Bierlein opened as a blacksmith and woodworking shop in 1852. In 1914 the already 62-year-old company began selling automobiles. Sixth generations later, Bierleins still run the business (new and used Chrysler, Jeep, RAM, and Dodge vehicles) "dedicated to progressive thinking and customer satisfaction."
#6. Next up is Winglemire Furniture, a family business in Holly since 1858. Fifth generation Winglemires now run the business with the slogan "Let Winglemire's feather your nest with a little down." They offer a variety of household furniture and are proud of their long and strong ties with the Holly community.


#7. Another hardware store is next - this one from my home town of Holland. Graafscap Hardware is a 7th generation family-owned business founded in 1860.  They distinguish themselves as "a small, local and friendly store that can help with questions and special orders." Their biggest sales are in bolts, nuts, screws and ammunition.  They say firearms is one of their niches - and window glass and screen repair.


#8. Proud to be "independent since 1864," Independent Bank Corp. is the first publicly-owned company on the list. Founded as First National Bank of Ionia, Independent Bank now operates 70 offices across Michigan's Lower Peninsula from its headquarters in Ionia.  .


#9. Kositchek's was started in 1865 in Easton Rapids and moved to its present location in downtown Lansing in the late 1800s.  Currently in the hands of the fourth generation family members, Kositchek's offers a collection of fine quality men's clothing, custom tailoring, and more.


#10. The oldest retail business in Kalamazoo, Hoekstra's Hardware has been in business since 1867. Though their web-site today is the typical one for True Value associate stores, an article by a reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette ends with this quote from a long-term customer: "To me, there's no other place better than Hoekstra's.  If you can't find it anywhere else, you you can find it there. And if you can't find it there, they will order it for you."


#11. And last on the list is Sieb Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning that has been "proudly serving Monroe County since 1868." Claiming to be the oldest continuously family-owned plumbing and heating company in the U.S. they understand that "trust is a must" for their survival over nearly 150 years and many more to come.
So that's my list of Michigan's oldest companies. I am always looking for additions to my data base, so if you know of a Michigan business that has been in operation since before 1914, please let me know.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Oldest Companies in the United States

My data base of 100-year-old U.S. companies lists 12 that were established prior to 1750 and are still in operation.  Half of these are agriculture-related and many are still in the same family.  One is a resort, one a restaurant, one a flour mill, one a stone carver, and two are manufacturers.  So here are my candidates for the oldest companies in the U.S.  If you know of others I would really like to hear from you!

1. Avedis Zildjian Co. in Norwell, MA.  Founded in Istanbul in 1623, Avedis III moved the company to the U.S. in 1929 so it is arguably the oldest company in the U.S. Fifteen generations of the Zildjian family have run the company that still manufactures fine cymbals.


2. Tuttle's Red Barn of Newbury, MA began in 1632, was sold in 2013, and is now Tendercrop Farm at the Red Barn.  A farm market store offering a variety of fresh produce, baked goods, a butcher shop, and other local products, the current owner is committed to carrying on the Tuttle tradition.


3. Shirley Plantation in Charles City, VA.  In the same family (Hill-Carter) for 11 generations, the plantation was founded in 1613 and the farm business began in 1638. Today Shirley continues to be a working plantation along with a growing business as a venue for weddings, tours, and a gift shop.


4. Fieldview Farm in Orange, CT.  Established in 1639, this farm is still in the Hine family (12 generations). Today it mainly produces dairy products, but it also sells agricultural equipment.


5. Emery Farm in Durham, NH.  In the same family since 1655, Emery Farm has over 350 years as a working farm.  They sell their own fresh fruits and vegetables, and also offer hayrides, corn maze, and Christmas trees.
                                  Emery Farm Home
6. Seaside Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine. Run today by ninth generation Gooch family, the oldest recorded document the family has of an inn being located on the property is dated 1660. John Gooch arrived in Maine in 1637 and some records show him taking over the inn in 1667.  No matter which date one uses, it's been around for well over 300 years.

7. The White Horse Tavern in Newport, RI. From "farm to table" since 1673, today the White Horse Tavern offers fresh, contemporary cuisine in an historic tavern atmosphere.


8. Saunderskill Farms in Accord, NY. Today the 12th & 13th generations of Schoonmakers run a greenhouse, farm market, bakery, and also offer lunch. The prime Roundout Creek bottomland of Saunderskill Farms has been continuously farmed since 1680.


9.  The John Stevens Shop, Newport, RI. Stone carvers since 1705, the John Stevens family produced some of the finest colonial American gravestones, many of which still stand in the nearby Common Burying Ground in Newport. The John Stevens Shop, now in the Benson family, still specializes in the design and carving of custom inscriptions in stone.


10. The Rowland Company of Philadelphia, PA. When it began business in 1732, Rowland made shovels and similar tools, as well as springs for wagons.  The company evolved over the years and became involved in the distribution of automotive and truck parts. Today The Rowland Company is a specialty distributor and fabricator of industrial power transmission components.


11. Lakeside Mills in Spindale, NC. Producing stone ground corn meal products since 1736, Lakeside Mills was owned by several different families but is now run by the fourth generation King family.  Today the company offers corn meal, flour, and grits as well as hushpuppy, biscuit, and pancake mixes - all available in grocery stores and restaurants throughout the southeastern U.S.

12. Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, CT. A sweet way to finish our list of U.S. companies in operation since before 1750 is Lyman Orchards, established in 1741.  Still a fruit  farm it's also a store, bakery, golf course, wedding venue, and more.

Almost 200 Years: Libbey Glass


Libbey Corporation has its roots in East Cambridge, Massachusetts as the New England Glass Company. In 1887 William Libbey took over the company, renamed it (New England Glass Works, Wm. L. Libbey & Sons, Props) and in 1888 Edward Libbey (presumably one of the "sons") moved the company to Toledo, Ohio to take advantage of the abundance of natural gas and high quality sand.  In 1892 the company became simply The Libbey Glass Company.  Though Libbey became part of Owens-Illinois in 1935, it became an independent public company in 1993 (NYSE:LBY)


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Nearly 200 Years of Helpful Information

The 2015 Baer Almanac is now available!

 Providing information for farmers and gardeners since 1817 (since 1825 in English), this year John Baer's Sons has this to say about their almanac:

"Readers like our almanac because it is full of interesting information and no advertising. First and foremost are our calendar pages that tell farmers and gardeners all they need to now about planting times: sun and moon rises and sets, signs of the zodiac and weather predictions for the year. You'll know exactly when planets are visible in the sky and when to go fishing; when to plant root crops and when to set hens, too.
Every year we offer our readers some short biographies of historic Americans and this year is no different: Read about Gen. George McClellan who ran against Lincoln in his last election, and about Andrew Johnson, who tried to win the Democratic nomination for his second term, but failed. And of course, there's always more to learn about plants, such as the three distinct varieties of irises, or the many pleasures of a fragrance garden. Find out how to store winter squash, beets and carrots, too!"

You can find enjoy this bit of Americana for just $7.50 from John Baer's Sons, PO Box 328, Lancaster, Pa 17608

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Nearly 200 Years of Family Boat Builders

                      East Boothbay, Maine

Hodgdon Yachts is one of those Corporate Century Club gems: in business for nearly 200 years and still run by the founding family - their current president, Timothy Hodgdon is 5th generation.  Here's what they say on their website:

"Our goal at Hodgdon Yachts is to build the world's best sailing or motor yacht. It's that simple. And to us, building a world-class yacht is measured in how well design and aesthetics are balanced with practical issues of engineering and performance. Hodgdon vessels have earned the reputation of 'heirloom boat' for more than their extraordinary looks. They also stand the test of time. At the foundation of every sailing and motor vessel we build, you'll find a consummate team of craftsmen, the industry's most advanced construction technology and a passion for excellence. It's the way we've built boats for nearly two centuries."

And here's the "team of craftsmen" also posted on their website:

The Hodgdon Yachts boatbuilding crew

In just two more years, Hodgdon will qualify to become a member of the Henokeins Association - companies over 200 years still run by the founding family.  Quite a feat.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Breck's - Direct (flower bulbs) to you from Holland since 1818


I have ordered flower bulbs from Breck's for years without realizing they were a member of the "Corporate Century Club."  Located in Guilford, Indiana (and Hillegom, Netherlands), Breck's expanded from a family-owned garden supply business to a catalog company. Now celebrating nearly 200 years in business, Breck's claims to be the largest U.S. importer of Dutch flower bulbs, selecting the "best bulbs from the fertile fields of Holland right to your door."  


Friday, August 8, 2014

Claflin Company - Medical Distributor since 1817

The Claflin Company

Located in Warwick, Rhode Island, Claflin has been an independent distributor of medical and surgical products for nearly 200 years. They consider themselves a pioneer in "just in time" inventory techniques to the acute care marketplace. Another example of how these "old" companies balance innovation and tradition to succeed for the long term.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Loane Brothers - Nearly 200 Years Old

Loane Brothers is a family owned and operated business in Baltimore, Maryland.  The company began in 1815 as a sail maker but has evolved with the times and now sells and rents party tents and awnings (with some Civil War tents along the way).

                                       Loane Bros., Inc

Today's business is run by founder Joseph Loane's great, great, great grandsons, meaning Loane Brothers will qualify next year to become a member of the Henokeins Association.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Het Hanze Huis

When I was in Groningen, Netherlands earlier this summer a friend introduced me to a store that only sells products from the year 1800 or earlier that are still manufactured from the original "recipe."  The store is named for the Hanseatic League - a group of cities that dominated trade in Europe from the 12th-16th centuries.  At its peak, this coalition included 205 cities with Groningen among them. Het Hanze Huis now offers food products such as coffee, tea, marzipan, chocolate, jams and honey as well as soap, table linens and some interesting fragrance papers.   I have tried several of their offerings and can vouch for their quality. Wishing they would open a store in the U.S.  In the meantime, visit their store website to find their very interesting offerings.

Louisiana Sugar Factories

Raw sugar factories have been operating in southern Louisiana for a very long time.  Among them is M.A. Patout & Sons, Ltd. operating a sugar mill south of Jeanerette since 1825.  It is still owned and operated by the founding Patout family.  Also known as "Enterprise Factory" they run two other old sugar mills: Sterling Sugars founded 1807 in Franklin, and Raceland Raw Sugar in Raceland.  All three mills are producers of sugar, molasses, and syrup


"Making life sweeter, naturally"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sawyer Bentwood

Sawyer Bentwood is a family-run operation in Whitington, Vermont that has been in business since 1801 - that's over 200 years.

Bentwood Components. Custom Bendings. Edge Bands. Table Skirts. Chair Backs and Bench Bow Backs. Rocker Runners. Wood Slats. Wood Splats.

Today, Sawyer Bentwood specializes in steam bending wood to manufacture a large variety of hardwood products using a special steam-bending technique. 

If you visit their web-site you will see they exhibit a characteristic I have found in many of the companies in the "Century Club" - a commitment to environmentalism.  Though many people might associate "green" initiatives more with newer, entrepreneurial firms, I have found many of the 100-year-old companies I have studied to be at the forefront of environmental initiatives.  These initiatives may stem from one of the distinguishing factors of the old companies - a commitment to and involvement in their communities.  Also, since leaders of these old companies tend to see themselves as "stewards" of their company (rather than making a name for themselves). this perhaps also extends into feeling obliged to be stewards of the environment.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Two "Sweet" Additions to the Corporate Century Club

I found these two 100-year-old companies reading the New York Times yesterday - 36 Hours in Green Bay, WI.  Both are companies making old-fashioned chocolates.  Seroogy's Chocolates in DePere, began in 1899 and today is run by third generation Seroogy brothers.

Nearby Kaap's Old World Chocolates in Green Bay began in 1907.

Kaap's Old World ChocolatesKaap's Old World Chocolates

Both look like they  make wonderful candy!